© 2024 KUNR
Illustration of rolling hills with occasional trees and a radio tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What to expect out of Putin's visit to North Korea


The streets of North Korea's capital Pyongyang were adorned with Russian flags today, along with a big banner hung from a building and reading, we warmly welcome the president of the Russian Federation. The fanfare was in honor of Vladimir Putin, who has just arrived in North Korea, his first visit in nearly a quarter-century. Putin's expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And among those watching for signs of warming relations between the two countries is our next guest, Angela Stent of the Brookings Institution. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ANGELA STENT: Great to be on your show again, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this follows a trip by Kim last year to Russia. We're watching Putin now returning the favor. What makes this the right moment for a trip like this?

STENT: Well, for Putin, it's really cementing his axis of resistance. He may be shunned by the West, but, you know, North Korea is now a new partner. They're going to sign a strategic partnership agreement. But most importantly, North Korea has been supplying Russia with artillery, with ballistic missiles, with the weapons it's using in its war in Ukraine. And Putin needs more of those.

KELLY: Yeah. I was going to ask whether Ukraine was likely to be top of the agenda. It sounds like it will be right up there. You said North Korea is arming Russia in its war. What is North Korea getting in exchange?

STENT: Well, of course, we don't know what North Korea is getting in exchange, but we assume it's getting some technical assistance. When Kim Jong Un visited Russia last year, he went to the spaceport in Vostochny. They want advanced space equipment. They want to develop a space program. And hopefully, from their point of view, they're going to have economic benefits from this visit because remember; they still have food shortages. They have an underdeveloped economy. And Russia has now broken with the U.N. sanctions and is hoping to supply North Korea with more goodies.

KELLY: I want to ask about one other country in the mix. Not in the room for these talks but kind of the elephant in the room for these talks is North Korea's and Russia's joint neighbor, China. What is China's stake here? How much influence does it wield?

STENT: Well, China is very wary of this relationship because until now, China has been the major great power supporter of North Korea. It's also concerned about North Korea's nuclear program. It's not quite sure what Russia's attitude is toward that now. So I think the Chinese are going to be watching this very carefully, and Putin is going to North Korea with an eye on China, not wanting to alienate his important partner but wanting to assert that Russia, too, can pursue its own interests.

KELLY: OK, so that's what China may be watching for. What about the U.S.? And I'll put it to you directly as a former U.S. intelligence official. What tea leaves are you watching for that may reveal how deep or how superficial or how shallow this relationship runs between Pyongyang and Moscow?

STENT: Well, I'm going to look at the body language, which is always interesting to see how they greet each other, to see how he is welcomed. And I think what the U.S. is most concerned about really is Russia enabling North Korea to further develop its nuclear program and to become a stronger and more influential country, which is still very repressive. But I think the body language, the kinds of things that they say publicly and then to see what we think they might have said privately will be very interesting.

KELLY: Yeah. Is there any good news that could come out of such a summit for the U.S from the U.S. point of view?

STENT: I don't think there's too much good news. We know that Russia and China are going to be doing joint drills off the coasts of Japan and South Korea in the next 10 days. So I think we have to be very concerned about our ally - important ally in South Korea. I don't think there's too much good news that can come from this for the U.S.

KELLY: All right. Angela Stent, author of "Putin's World: Russia Against The West And With The Rest." Thanks so much -always enjoy hearing and benefiting from your expertise.

STENT: Thank you, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.